Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez believes his country's World Cup qualifier against Brazil was suspended due to "political reasons".

Martinez was one of three Premier League players who started Sunday's match between the South American heavyweights at the Neo Quimica Arena.

However, the match was stopped shortly after kick-off when Brazilian health officials came onto the pitch to apprehend Martinez, Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso.

The United Kingdom is a red-listed country in Brazil, restricting the entry of those who have been in the UK in the past 14 days.

Brazil had called up nine players from the Premier League for their September games, but none of the group travelled.

Anvisa, Brazil's health authority, said in a widely released statement shortly before Sunday's game: "Anvisa considers the situation a serious health risk and so has asked local health authorities to determine the immediate quarantine of the players, who are stopped from participating in any activity and should be prevented from remaining on Brazilian soil."

Argentina's players walked off the pitch and did not return, with the game called off by the referee. On Monday, FIFA opened an investigation into the matter.

Martinez is now set to return to the UK along with his Aston Villa team-mate Emiliano Buendia, who was not involved on Sunday, although they will travel via Croatia due to quarantine restrictions.

The former Arsenal keeper spoke to reporters at Ezeiza International Airport and did not hold back in his criticism of the decision.

"We all know what happened. We prepare for three days in Brazil to play the game and having it cancelled after five minutes is a bitter feeling," he said.

"We gave everything to win it and for political reasons, I don't know what happened, it was cancelled and we had to go back.

"There were rumours about those from the Premier League, who could not play the game, but they could have warned us when we arrived in Brazil, and we did not make enough trouble to cancel the game. Simple. They could have warned us before.

"It's a shame because we were going to win. We were confident, the team was doing well. We did not understand anything. We stayed for half an hour to see if we would go out to play or warm up again, and after 30 or 40 minutes, they told us we had to go."

Martinez also revealed there was a possibility he, along with the other Premier League players, would have had to remain in Brazil and in isolation for two weeks if not for the Argentine Football Association's intervention.

"There was the possibility that they would leave the four boys from England there for 14 days," Martinez said. "But Chiqui [Tapia, president of the AFA] helped us, backed us all and said 'we're all going' and we all left.

"Aston Villa did not understand the regulations of Brazil and why it happened. It is not something the world expected to see. It was something to enjoy and not to make a fool of yourself.

"The four of us decided to come for the love of the shirt; even though all of the Premier League [clubs] did not want us to come, we decided to come anyway.

"After winning the Copa America, the whole team wants to be with the group, not just give the national team a victory. It is something beautiful that we have and we accept the consequences."

Liverpool have recently re-signed a number of key players in their squad, but talks are under way with star forward Mohamed Salah. 

The two-time Premier League Golden Boot winner has less than two years remaining on his current deal with the Reds. 

Virgil van Dijk, Alisson and skipper Jordan Henderson all recently committed their long-term futures to Liverpool, as well as full-back pair Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson. 

TOP STORY - SALAH DEMANDS BUMPER LIVERPOOL DEAL

Salah is demanding a major pay rise to re-commit to Liverpool, claims The Mirror. 

The Egyptian forward, according to the report, wants to earn £500,000 a week to extend his time at Anfield, having moved to Merseyside from Roma in June 2017. 

If the deal is agreed, it would make Salah the highest paid player in Liverpool's history. 

 

ROUND-UP

- The Sun reports that Aston Villa are plotting a January move for Weston McKennie. The Juventus midfielder had been linked with a move away recently, though the Serie A club could not find a suitable buyer before the closure of the transfer window. 

Phil Foden will be presented with a new contract offer by Manchester City which will quadruple his current wages, according to the Daily Star. The new six-year deal is reportedly worth £150,000 per week. 

- Former France international Franck Ribery is set to complete a deal with newly promoted Serie A club Salernitana as a free agent, claims Fabrizio Romano. He will undergo a medical on Monday. 

Franck Kessie has turned down a new contract offer from Milan, claims Gazzetta dello Sport, putting Premier League trio Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea on alert. 

The transfer window officially closed on Tuesday, meaning clubs across Europe must now make do with the players available to them until at least January.

It has been an eventful few months, with Lionel Messi ending his 21-year association with Barcelona by joining Paris Saint-Germain and Cristiano Ronaldo sealing an emotional return to Manchester United from Juventus.

The drama continued to unfold right through until the final stages of the window as Antoine Griezmann rejoined Atletico Madrid on an initial loan and Chelsea snapped up Saul Niguez from the Spanish champions, while Real Madrid brought in rising star Eduardo Camavinga from Rennes.

With Kylian Mbappe staying at PSG and Harry Kane still a Tottenham player, Jack Grealish's £100million switch to Manchester City from Aston Villa was the biggest deal in monetary terms, followed by Romelu Lukaku's £97.5m (€115m) move to Chelsea from Inter.

Stats Perform takes a look at the best deals that went through.

Hakan Calhanoglu: Inter to Milan (free transfer)

After failing to agree new terms at Milan, Calhanoglu completed a shock move across the city to rivals Inter, signing a three-year deal.

While not necessarily the most popular transfer, getting a player who created 98 chances last season – the most of any player in Europe's top five leagues – for free is quite something.

The Turkey international got a goal and an assist on his debut in the 4-0 win over Genoa, prompting coach Simone Inzaghi to proclaim the player "doesn't realise how good he is".

Manuel Locatelli: Sassuolo to Juventus (loan with €25m obligation)

One of Italy's most prized young assets, Locatelli secured a move to Juventus on a two-year loan that includes an obligation to buy for an initial €25m.

Among midfielders in Serie A last season, the 23-year-old made the most touches (3,304), passes (2,749) and tackles (81). He then impressed as Italy won Euro 2020, scoring twice in the group-stage win over Switzerland.

For a club looking to strengthen while saving money, this could prove a shrewd deal for Juve.

 

Danny Ings: Southampton to Aston Villa (£25m)

Villa appear to have invested the money they received for Grealish in shrewd fashion, signing Leon Bailey, Emiliano Buendia and striker Ings.

While the Ings deal materialised very quickly in early August, he certainly did not seem to need much time to adjust to new surroundings, scoring twice in his first three league games this season.

With 34 goals across his final two league campaigns with Southampton, there is reason to think the 29-year-old could be one of the smartest signings of the window.

Lionel Messi: Free agent to Paris Saint-Germain

The most spectacular free transfer of all time came after Barcelona had agree a new contract with Messi only to be forced to admit they could not let him sign it due to financial restrictions.

A tearful Messi bade farewell to his boyhood club before securing a move to PSG, who now boast a frankly terrifying forward line of Messi, Neymar and Mbappe.

Describing it as a 'free' transfer is somewhat misleading given the various costs involved in the different aspects of the deal, but for PSG to sign arguably the greatest player in history without paying a transfer fee is pretty amazing business.

 

Romelu Lukaku: Inter to Chelsea (£97.5m)

Chelsea smashed their transfer record to bring back Lukaku, whose last action in his first spell at the club was to miss a penalty in the UEFA Super Cup shoot-out loss to Bayern Munich in 2013.

Lukaku plundered 24 goals and 11 assists in 2020-21 to fire Inter to the title and claim Serie A's MVP award, after which he pushed for a return to Stamford Bridge, where he felt he had unfinished business.

It might have been a serious financial outlay, but Lukaku showed in the 2-0 win at Arsenal what a difference he could make to a Chelsea side who are extremely tough to beat but not exactly free-scoring.

Eduardo Camavinga: Rennes to Real Madrid (€30m)

Madrid may have missed out on top target Mbappe, but they managed to get a deal over the line for fellow Frenchman Camavinga, bringing an end to 18 months of speculation surrounding the young midfielder.

It is the first time Madrid have spent money on a transfer fee since 2019, when they signed Eden Hazard from Chelsea for €100m, and in Camavinga they are signing a player for the here and now rather than the future.

Since making his debut for Rennes in April 2019, no player in Ligue 1 has attempted (230) or won more tackles (139) than the three-cap France international, who will now provide competition for Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Federico Valverde.

 

Saul Niguez: Atletico Madrid to Chelsea (loan with option to buy for £30m)

After being regularly linked with the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool in recent years, Saul will finally get a chance to play in the Premier League with Chelsea this season.

A box-to-box midfielder, the Spain international is at his best operating in a central role, though his versatility and workrate have often seen him deployed out wide by Atletico coach Diego Simeone.

He made just 22 league starts last season, his lowest figure since 2014-15. However, since August 2019, Real Madrid's Casemiro (190) is the only midfielder to have attempted more tackles than Saul (159) in LaLiga.

Antoine Griezmann: Barcelona to Atletico Madrid (loan deal with an obligation to buy)

Two years after leaving Atletico in a big-money transfer, Griezmann has returned to the Spanish capital to boost an attack that already includes Luis Suarez, Joao Felix, Angel Correa and fellow new recruit Matheus Cunha.

Griezmann's Camp Nou career never truly took off and he failed to score or create a single opportunity across Barca's first three league games this season.

But Simeone will be confident he can get the Frenchman, who scored 94 LaLiga goals in 180 appearances in his first stint at the club, operating at somewhere close to his former glory.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo: Juventus to Manchester United (£12.9m rising to £19.7m)

Twelve years after departing Old Trafford, Ronaldo is once again a Manchester United player after completing a surprise return to the club where he won the first of his five Ballons d'Or.

Ronaldo scored 118 goals in 292 appearances under Alex Ferguson in his first spell, 42 of those goals coming in the 2007-08 season alone, and he remains a prolific forward despite his all-round game changing with time.

The Portugal captain scored 29 league goals in his third and final season with Juventus to win the Capocannoniere, making him the first player to finish as top scorer in Serie A, LaLiga and the Premier League.

Chelsea have been linked with Sevilla's French defender Jules Kounde throughout the off-season.

The 22-year-old centre-back did not play for Sevilla at the weekend and reportedly wants to exit the club.

Kounde would be Chelsea's second major signing behind Romelu Lukaku, as the transfer window closure approaches.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA FACING MONDAY ULTIMATUM ON KOUNDE

Chelsea's drawn-out pursuit of Sevilla's Jules Kounde has hit another speed bump with the Spanish club issuing the Blues an ultimatum, according to AS.

Sevilla have told Chelsea if they do not submit a suitable offer on Monday, then they have to meet Kounde's €80 million (£68m) release clause.

Chelsea have not tabled a firm bid for Kounde beyond €50m, while the LaLiga outfit had reportedly previously wanted €60-70m.

ROUND-UP

- The Star reports that Cristiano Ronaldo's arrival at Manchester United will force Dan James out, with Everton, Brighton and Hove Albion, Leeds United and Crystal Palace all in the running for the Welsh winger.

- Manchester United are unlikely to move for Atletico Madrid full-back and long-term target Kieran Trippier reports the Manchester Evening News. United's capture of Ronaldo means their transfer business is over.

- Sport reports that Juventus are ready to make one final effort to sign Miralem Pjanic back from Barcelona. Juve are willing to take Pjanic on loan, with the midfielder out of favour at Barca.

- Aston Villa are set to table a £15m bid for Liverpool midfielder Curtis Jones according to the Express. The Villans are eager to strengthen having missed out on Arsenal's Emile Smith Rowe.

Borussia Dortmund assistant coach Rene Maric has claimed reports linking Axel Witsel with a €5million move to Aston Villa are "obvious nonsense".

Premier League club Villa are in the market for a midfielder and are rumoured to have been offered Dortmund's 32-year-old Belgium international Witsel.

Injury blighted Witsel's 2020-21 campaign but the former Zenit St Petersburg midfielder has started all three of Dortmund's Bundesliga games so far this season, and the DFB-Supercup, albeit he has been required to fill in at the back rather than in his usual role.

Witsel played the full match as Dortmund edged out Hoffenheim 3-2 thanks to Erling Haaland's late winner on Friday, though that did not stop speculation over his future.

However, in a comical twist, Dortmund assistant Maric used his official social media account to rubbish the reports.

"It's obvious nonsense, can't understand how some people are pretending it's not just to make a headline," Maric tweeted in response to a post quoting a report written by Sport Witness, which cited Tuttosport as the source.

Maric did not leave it there, however, as when he was asked for a "source" to back up his statement, the coach replied with a photo of himself and Witsel.

Since joining Dortmund from Chinese Super League side Tianjin Tianhai in 2018, Witsel has established himself as one of the leading holding midfielders in the Bundesliga.

Witsel has made 79 appearances in Germany's top flight for Dortmund, helping BVB to 51 victories.

Dortmund's win percentage with Witsel in the side is 64.6, yet the rate drops to 57.7 without the Belgian, who has missed 26 league games in total.

BVB also average slightly more points per game with Witsel than without him – 2.1 compared to 1.9.

Paris Saint-Germain have lined up several options to replace Kylian Mbappe.

A deal with Real Madrid could create a domino effect. 

Who might be on the move to PSG?

 

TOP STORY – PSG LINE UP MBAPPE REPLACEMENTS

Paris Saint-Germain do not plan to let Kylian Mbappe go to Real Madrid this transfer window without replacing him. 

The French giants have their eyes on multiple players should Los Blancos' reported €180million bid for the striker succeed. 

Two Brazilians currently in the Premier League top the list, as Globo Esporte says PSG want Gabriel Jesus – though Pep Guardiola said he does not expect any more departures from Manchester City. 

PSG also reportedly are weighing up a bid for Everton's Richarlison, says ESPN Brasil. 

And though all indications have been that Erling Haaland will stay put with Borussia Dortmund, the Star says PSG could make another bid if Mbappe departs. 

 

ROUND-UP

- Jules Kounde is ready to move from Sevilla to Chelsea, says Sky Sports News, but the Blues are balking at the Spanish club's €80m asking price and are prepared to offer only about €50m.

- Everton are closing in on a swap deal that would send James Rodriguez to Porto with Luis Diaz joining the Toffees, reports Fabrizio Romano. 

- Arsenal's Ainsley Maitland-Niles could also be on the move to Everton, reports Sky Sports News, who say the Premier League side have also asked Celtic about Odsonne Edouard

- Meanwhile, Juventus are in talks with Everton about a deal for Moise Kean, who has become their top priority with Cristiano Ronaldo's departure, says Romano.

- Roma could make a move for Atletico Madrid's Hector Herrera, according to Calciomercato. 

- Aston Villa are weighing a move for Borussia Dortmund midfielder Axel Witsel, reports Tuttosport. 

- Atalanta have their eyes on AZ Alkmaar's Teun Koopmeiners, says Calciomercato. 

Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz are likely to be without a few key English-based players ahead of the start of next month’s World Cup qualifiers if the country is shifted to the United Kingdom’s red list of travel destinations.

In recent days both the English Premier League and Spain's La Liga have declared that they will not release club players to countries that are on the UK list of red destinations, due to strict coronavirus quarantine protocols.

According to the region’s current coronavirus re-entry rules, individuals returning from red list destinations face a mandatory 10 days of hotel quarantine on return to England.  In stating that they will refuse the request of those nations for the upcoming qualifiers, the Premier League argued that in addition to the 10 days the athletes will then need more time to regain fitness and could miss a number of games.

At current, the South American countries of  Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Peru are those most likely to be heavy impacted in the region, but with La Liga also joining the decision, CONCACAF team Mexico is also likely to be affected with five players currently plying their trade in the Spanish Premier League.

Mexico will open their CONCACAF World Cup qualification hexagonal round at home to Jamaica on Thursday, September 2.  Jamaica is currently not affected by the decision as the country remains on the list of amber countries for the time being.  With the list due to be updated on Thursday, however, and a surge of cases in recent weeks it will be worth noting whether their status is changed or not.

In any case, the majority of the country’s English-based players ply their trade in the English Championship who have not issued such a directive on the matter.  The decision may, however, impact the appearance of Jamaica international’s Leon Bailey, who now plays for Aston Villa, and West Ham’s Michail Antonio, the latter having received his national identity documents was expected to make his debut for the country next month.

Liverpool fans enjoyed their return to Anfield for Saturday's 2-0 win over Burnley, and Jurgen Klopp's subsequent comments ensured the focus remained on the Reds.

Discussing Burnley's approach, Klopp said: "Watch wrestling if you like that kind of thing."

Indeed, the Clarets' physicality is "too dangerous", according to the Liverpool manager.

Some of the most intriguing Opta facts from the Premier League weekend emerged from that feisty encounter, while there were predictable developments as Manchester United visited Southampton...

No reds against Reds despite 'wrestling' claims

The clash at Anfield was not quite WWE, but there was also limited football on display. The ball was in play for just 49 minutes and 47 seconds.

That was the second-shortest such length of time for a Liverpool league game under Klopp, longer only than the 48 minutes and 46 seconds against Watford in 2015.

The Hornets won that game 3-0, so it can be an effective stifling tactic, but it did not work on this occasion as Liverpool scored in either half through Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane.

Klopp's men have now won seven consecutive Premier League games while scoring in both halves in each of them. Liverpool's own run of 11 victories with goals before and after half-time in 2014 was the last longer streak.

Burnley are on their own impressive run, though – one at odds with Klopp's frustrations.

Sean Dyche's side are now 95 Premier League matches without a red card since Robbie Brady's late dismissal against Huddersfield Town in January 2019, surpassing the previous competition record that saw Ipswich Town go 94 games without having a player sent off prior to December 1994.

Home comforts at last for City star Laporte

In Manchester City's 5-0 demolition of Norwich City, Aymeric Laporte scored his ninth goal for the club but first at the Etihad Stadium.

Laporte had turned out at City's home stadium 44 times previously without hitting the net, with each of his eight prior strikes coming at different grounds.

The Spain centre-back had goals at the AMEX, Emirates Stadium, Goodison Park, Groupama Stadium, Metalist Stadium, Molineux, Wembley and Vicarage Road before finally celebrating in front of the Etihad supporters.

Another Villa pen makes for Premier League first

Danny Ings' outrageous overhead kick lit up a tight affair between Aston Villa and Newcastle United, but it was a controversial second from the penalty spot that put the game beyond the Magpies.

Ings had scored from 12 yards on his debut against Watford – his volley against Newcastle making him the fourth Villa player to net in each of their first two Premier League games for the club – and so was expected to step up again when Jamaal Lascelles was adjudged to have handled.

Instead, Anwar El Ghazi grabbed Villa's second, maintaining his perfect penalty record in the competition with six from six.

Ings was overlooked despite missing just one of his nine attempts, meaning Villa became the first side in Premier League history to have two different players score spot-kicks in the first two games of a season.

There had been previous examples of two team-mates converting penalties in the same game – Fulham's Louis Saha and Steve Marlet on the opening day in 2002-03, and Southampton pair Dusan Tadic and Charlie Austin on matchday two in 2017-18 – but never in different matches at the start of a campaign.

Dom spot on at Leeds as Gray makes amends

There was a personal penalty first at Elland Road, as Dominic Calvert-Lewin kickstarted Everton's 2-2 draw with Leeds United. It was the England striker's 55th Toffees goal but his first from the spot.

Demarai Gray had Everton in front for a second time in the second half with his maiden strike for the club. Having netted in a 2-0 Leicester City win in 2017, he became the 34th player to score for and against Everton in the Premier League.

That puts Everton fourth in that regard, behind West Ham (46), Aston Villa (42) and Liverpool (39). Villa's Ings and Liverpool's Mane are both included.

Saints brush off Fred the Red's helping hand

It is a fixture best known for a famous grey-clad Manchester United loss, but Southampton's slip-up against a Red Devils side unmistakably dressed in blue and yellow went entirely to script.

Saints led through a Fred own goal, the fourth time United have netted for Southampton in the competition. Only against Newcastle (five) have United scored more own goals.

But Mason Greenwood's equaliser ensured Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side are now unbeaten in a record-equalling 27 away league fixtures.

For Southampton, this was nowhere near as bad as last season's clash when they collapsed from 2-0 up to lose 3-2 – or, of course, the 9-0 Old Trafford humiliation – but it was still painfully familiar. They have now dropped 42 points from winning positions against United in the Premier League, fewer only than Tottenham's 45 against Arsenal.

Since the start of last season, Saints top the charts for squandering leads, giving up 28 points – three ahead of second-placed Brighton and Hove Albion.

Liverpool went top of the Premier League after a Sadio Mane landmark goal helped the Reds sink Burnley.

The Senegal forward struck for the 50th time at Anfield in the competition, becoming just the fifth Reds star to do so in the Premier League era, as Liverpool swept to a 2-0 win.

Danny Ings joined notable company as he scored a stunning goal in Aston Villa's victory over Newcastle United, while Manchester City hit five goals in a game, which is becoming almost routine for Pep Guardiola's champions.

Using Opta data, we take a look at the key statistics from across four of Saturday's standout fixtures.

Liverpool 2-0 Burnley: Mane joins Salah in Anfield 50-goal club

Mane's clincher against Burnley was his 50th Premier League goal at home for Liverpool. The only players to have achieved that feat previously have been Robbie Fowler (85 goals), Steven Gerrard (69), Michael Owen (63) and Mane's team-mate Mohamed Salah (56).

Given their strong finish last term, Jurgen Klopp's team have won each of their past seven Premier League games now. That is as many victories as they enjoyed in their previous 20 games in the competition (D5 L8) and their longest winning streak in the league since a run of 18 ending in February 2020. Their run of fourth clean sheets in the league is their longest since a run of seven between December 2019 and January 2020.

Trent Alexander-Arnold's assist for Mane was the ninth time he has teed up a goal for the former Southampton man, four more than he has for any other Liverpool player.

Virgil van Dijk made his 48th home Premier League appearance with Liverpool and has lost none of those games (W43 D5), with the team's dip last season coming in his injury-enforced absence. Only Lee Sharpe has played more home games for one club in the competition without losing any of them (59 with Manchester United).

As Liverpool celebrated, Burnley were left to lick their wounds after losing five games in a row in the Premier League for the first time, last doing so in any division in the 2008-09 Championship campaign. The Clarets have lost 11 of their 15 Premier League matches against Liverpool (W2 D2), more defeats than they have suffered against any other side in the competition (losing 10 against Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City).

Manchester City 5-0 Norwich City: A first for City, but a familiar outcome

For the first time in Manchester City's 25 Premier League campaigns, their opening goal of the season was an own goal, Tim Krul the unlucky man.

But if that was irregular, the final outcome surely surprised very few as the champions put the promoted Canaries to the sword.

Since Pep Guardiola joined Manchester City ahead of the 2016-17 season, there have been 49 Premier League games won by a margin of five or more goals, and the Catalan's team have been responsible for 23 of these (47 per cent).

City have now won their past four home league games against Norwich by an aggregate score of 19-1 since a 3-2 reverse in May 2013.

Jack Grealish became the first English player to score on his home Premier League debut for City since Frank Lampard netted against Chelsea in September 2014, while there was a collector's item from Aymeric Laporte. The defender scored his ninth goal for City in all competitions, but it was his first to come at the Etihad Stadium.

Norwich have had a brutal start, with a 3-0 home loss to Liverpool followed by the torture of City away. In Premier League history, only Leicester City in 2001-02 (-9) and Wigan Athletic in 2010-11 (-10) have ever had a worse goal difference from their opening two games of a season than Norwich's current -8.

Given their awful finish to the 2019-20 season, Norwich have now lost 12 consecutive Premier League games, the outright second-longest losing streak in the competition’s history, behind only Sunderland’s run of 20 from 2003 to 2005.


Aston Villa 2-0 Newcastle United: Diamond Ings shows his class

Former Southampton frontman Ings is looking like a smart signing by Villa already, and his bicycle kick that stunned Newcastle was a special goal.

Going back to last season with Saints, it means he has been directly involved in seven goals in his past eight Premier League starts, scoring six and assisting one. Ings also became just the fourth player to score in his first two Premier League appearances for Villa, after Dalian Atkinson in 1992, Dion Dublin in 1998 and Ross Barkley in 2020.

Villa have not lost in seven top-flight games in a row against Newcastle (W3 D4), doing so for the first time since a run of seven victories between 1955 and 1958.

The Magpies are having a tough time of it again, having lost their first two games of a league campaign for the fourth time in the past six seasons, after winning or drawing at least one of their first two fixtures in each of the 16 campaigns before that.

Their slow starts in the Premier League are becoming habitual and problematic, with Newcastle having won just two of their past 19 Premier League games in August (D6 L11), beating West Ham at home in 2017 and Tottenham away in 2019.

Leeds United 2-2 Everton: Toffees extend Premier League scoreline record

This was Everton's 70th 2-2 draw in Premier League history, and they have contested at least 15 more matches with that outcome than any other side in the competition.

If that was an all too familiar outcome, there was a first occurrence of note for the Toffees, too. Dominic Calvert-Lewin's opener was his 55th goal in all competitions for Everton, but his first scored from the penalty spot for the team who are now bossed by Rafael Benitez.

Demarai Gray scored his first Premier League goal for Everton, becoming the 34th different player to score both for and against the Toffees in the competition. Only West Ham (46), Aston Villa (42) and Liverpool (39) have had more players score for and against them in the competition.

Mateusz Klich and Raphinha earned a point for Leeds. Klich has now scored two goals in his past three Premier League games for Leeds, more than he had in his previous 32 (one). Klich has now scored five Premier League goals in total, as many as all other Polish players in the competition combined.

Since the start of last season, only Patrick Bamford (17 goals, eight assists) has been directly involved in more Premier League goals for Leeds United than Raphinha (seven goals, nine assists).

Paul Pogba assisted four of Manchester United's goals as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side started their 2021-22 Premier League campaign with a 5-1 thrashing of Leeds United.

Bruno Fernandes netted three of them, with Mason Greenwood and Fred also getting in on the action as United issued a statement of intent.

Chelsea followed up that victory with a 3-0 win over Patrick Vieira's Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge, while Liverpool rounded out the day by beating newly promoted Norwich City by the same scoreline.

Leicester City, Everton, Watford and Brighton and Hove Albion also claimed wins to get their seasons started in style.

Using Opta data, we take a look at the key statistics from across Saturday's fixtures.

 

Manchester United 5-1 Leeds United: Pogba and Fernandes leave Whites reeling

Pogba became the seventh player in Premier League history to assist four goals in a single game on Saturday, as he and Fernandes helped United seal a record 20th opening-day win. 

Dennis Bergkamp, Jose Antonio Reyes, Cesc Fabregas, Emmanuel Adebayor, Santi Cazorla and Harry Kane had previously teed up four goals in a Premier League match.

Two of Pogba's assists were for Fernandes, whose hat-trick was the 10th scored on the opening weekend of a Premier League season, while the playmaker was the first United player to achieve the feat since Lou Macari in 1977.

Mason Greenwood benefitted from a sublime Pogba pass shortly after Luke Ayling's sensational equaliser – the full-back's first top-flight goal – and he is now the fifth-highest scoring teenager in the history of the competition with 18 goals.

United netted five goals in their opening game of a Premier League game for only the second time, after beating Fulham 5-1 in August 2006, while Leeds shipped five in an opener for the first time.

Norwich City 0-3 Liverpool: Records tumble as Salah stars

Liverpool might have relinquished their Premier League title last season, but Mohamed Salah picked up where he left off last term as he scored and provided two assists in Liverpool's 3-0 win at Norwich.

Salah teed up both Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino before netting himself in the 74th minute. It means he has scored on matchday one in all five of his Premier League seasons with Liverpool, while he is the first player in the competition's history to find the net on five consecutive opening weekends.

Norwich have now lost 11 successive top-flight games – only Sunderland have had a longer losing streak in the competition.

Firmino came on from the bench to score Liverpool's second. It was the 49th league goal scored by a substitute under Jurgen Klopp, the most of any side in the competition since the German joined in 2015, while the Brazil international also brought up the Reds' 8,000th league goal in the process.

Chelsea 3-0 Crystal Palace: Pulisic predictably punishes Eagles again

This trip to Stamford Bridge played out in painfully familiar fashion for Palace, who have lost more Premier League games against Chelsea (19) than versus any other side in the competition's history.

In a routine 3-0 opening-day victory, the Blues became the third team – after Tottenham (nine) and Liverpool (eight) – to win eight in a row against Palace in the Premier League era.

The nature of the first two strikes was predictable, too, with Marcos Alonso netting Chelsea's 50th direct free-kick goal in the competition – trailing only United (64) – before Christian Pulisic grabbed his fifth in five games against Palace, more than versus any other opponent.

The third was slightly more surprising, as centre-back Trevoh Chalobah's superb strike made him the second youngest Chelsea player to score on their Premier League debut for the club after Paul Hughes (22y 40d for Chalobah, 20y 274d for Hughes against Derby County in 1997).

Everton 3-1 Southampton: Benitez off to a winning start

Rafael Benitez was a contentious appointment at Everton but his tenure started with a 3-1 win over Southampton. It was the first time the Toffees have won a league match in which they trailed at half-time since September 2015.

On the other hand, since Ralph Hasenhuttl took over at Southampton in December 2018, they have lost 60 points from winning positions in the Premier League, more than any other side.

Adam Armstrong opened his Southampton account to put the visitors ahead at Goodison Park. Since the start of 2019-20, only Ivan Toney (55) has scored more goals in the top four tiers of English football.

Fresh from Olympic glory with Brazil, Richarlison scored the equaliser and has now netted in each of his last four league games against Southampton.

With Abdoulaye Doucoure lashing Everton ahead, Dominic Calvert-Lewin made it 3-1 with a diving header. He has now netted 12 headed goals in the league since the start of 2019-20, four more than any other player.

Elsewhere, Leicester City saw off Wolves 1-0 thanks to Jamie Vardy's first-half effort. The Foxes have lost just one of their last 25 home league games against the Midlands club.

Only Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and Alan Shearer (all eight) have scored more goals on the opening weekend of Premier League campaigns than Vardy (seven).

Watford 3-2 Aston Villa: Ings on the spot but post-Grealish era starts in defeat

Watford have now lost their opening league match in just one of the past 15 campaigns (W8 D6), after the Hornets overcame Aston Villa 3-2.

Emmanuel Dennis became the fourth different Nigerian player to score on his Premier League debut to put Watford ahead, with Ismaila Sarr registering his 20th goal for the club before Cucho Hernandez became the first Colombian to net on his debut in the competition.

John McGinn scored his second goal in the space of four league appearances, as many as he had in his previous 55, to pull one back, before Danny Ings converted a late penalty.

He is the 24th player to score on his Premier League bow for Villa, while his spot-kick was the 2,000th penalty scored in Premier League history.

Meanwhile, Burnley are now winless in their last 11 home league games (D5 L6) since beating Villa 3-2 in January, equaling their longest run without a win at Turf Moor, after Brighton came from behind to win 2-1.

Here we go again. The Premier League race begins once more, despite some players barely having the chance to unpack their suitcases after short-lived pre-season breaks.

Last time out, Manchester City turned a potentially intriguing title battle into a procession. They had plenty of tests along the way, just mostly of the PCR variety as the teams pushed on amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

Thankfully, fans will be in grounds to watch from the start this time around, while some familiar faces have returned. Romelu Lukaku is back. Patrick Vieira – a three-time Premier League winner in his playing days – and Rafa Benitez, a former red now aligned to the Blues, are on the touchline. Norwich City and Watford, meanwhile, have negotiated the Championship to secure a quick reunion.

Still, there is always a freshness to every campaign, aided by summer signings and, this time, the presence of a newcomer.

Brentford provide a new, exciting chapter to the Premier League story, though it is perhaps expecting too much to hope for riveting plot twists when it comes to the likely contenders to be crowned champions.

THE THOROUGHBREDS READY TO RUN AGAIN

When Manchester rivals City and United drew 0-0 in an instantly forgettable derby in December 2020, one that left those who had watched on wondering what else they should have done with their time instead, Pep Guardiola's side were sitting outside the top seven in the table. It was actually an upturn in their position – they had languished down in 11th during the previous month.

By the time they hosted their neighbours in the return fixture in March 2021, however, City had won 21 in a row in all competitions and held a double-digit lead at the head of the league. The stunning run did come to an end that day, but it was just a case of delaying the inevitable.

The rich have got richer in pursuit of a third title in four years, in terms of talent at least. Spending £100million to get Jack Grealish has add further creativity, as if they really needed it. The squad could still be bolstered by Harry Kane, too. If the Tottenham striker moves north, the deck will be stacked even more in City's favour.

Yet there are reasons for the others who finished in the top four to be optimistic. Chelsea denied Guardiola in the Champions League final, giving a silver-lined finish to the promising early form under Thomas Tuchel. They have strengthened in attack, Lukaku back at the Bridge to sort out some unfinished business. A glaring gap in the squad (sorry, Timo Werner) has been filled.

Adding goals will be a key factor for the Blues, as they managed only 38 in all competitions following the appointment of the German coach. To put that number into context, United and City managed 58 and 70 across the same period. Even Tottenham topped them with 49.

OLE JOCKEYS FOR SILVERWARE

United finished second but will hope Jadon Sancho can lift them even higher, albeit the arrival of Raphael Varane could be even more crucial, considering the Red Devils conceded 28 goals at home last season – their most in a single campaign since 1962-63. Tighten up and it could well be their year, but they do not want to continue the habit of giving opposing teams head-starts again in games.

Those two marquee signings, which came in the transfer window following unrest among the fanbase aimed at the club's ownership, have rightly raised expectations. Now, for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, there is a need to secure something tangible, a piece of silverware to show he can clear the final hurdle.

The caretaker appointed to lift the gloom after Jose Mourinho is just three Premier League games short of a century in charge – if United triumph in all of them on the way to that Solskjaer milestone, the Norwegian will have the same winning percentage at the magical 100 mark as Arsene Wenger and Jurgen Klopp.

As for Klopp and Liverpool, there is a degree of uncertainty. The outstanding winners in 2019-20 required a fast finish – the Reds' run of five consecutive league wins in May was more than they managed in 12 games in February, March and April combined – just to squeeze into the top four. They began to rebuild fortress Anfield, knocked down during a record-breaking losing run.

Injuries did decimate the squad during a tepid title defence, but Virgil van Dijk is now fit again and, just in case, Ibrahima Konate has come in to provide added depth at the heart of the defence. If Sadio Mane can rediscover his scoring form and ease the burden on Mohamed Salah, the ingredients are all there to mount a sustained challenge again.

THE FADING FORCES DESPERATE TO FIND FORM

In times of cutbacks, have the 'Big Six' been reduced to a 'Big Four'? Arsenal and Tottenham still retained enough pulling power to be included as part of the failed European Super League plan, but neither have ended up above Leicester City in the final league table in the past two years.

The Foxes came up short in their Champions League quest again, though the frustration at a second successive fifth-place finish was eased somewhat by lifting the FA Cup. The underappreciated Brendan Rodgers has never lacked belief, and Leicester have backed their boss in the transfer market with the signings of Patson Daka and Boubakary Soumare.

Spurs' transfer business is now being carried out by new managing director Fabio Paratici, while Nuno Espirito Santo was eventually selected to take over as head coach, despite at one stage appearing to be off the lengthy list of candidates. Both are carrying out their duties amid uncertainty over Kane, the competition's disgruntled Golden Boot winner determined to get a move.

Tottenham will be the Premier League's first participants in the Europa Conference League, which could either offer welcome relief from league issues or be a midweek nuisance. Come on, though, who doesn't want to go to Latvia in winter? Arsenal may well wish they had such concerns - they will not be playing in any European competition for the first time in 26 years.

Ben White has come in at great expense as the Gunners have put a focus on getting younger. Really, they just need to get better. To that extent, getting more out of Thomas Partey, not to mention Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who managed just the 10 league goals in 29 games, would help.

Mikel Arteta has much work to do to make sure the gap to the head of the field does not grow wider.

THE OUTSIDERS HOPING TO EMERGE

West Ham finished above the north London duo last time thanks in no small part to the impact made by Jesse Lingard during his loan spell.

The attacking midfielder scored nine goals and four assists in 16 games to propel himself back into England contention, even it remains to be seen if it was enough to rekindle his Manchester United career.

Without Lingard, David Moyes will have to conjure up more magic from within his squad as they also tackle the added workload of playing in the Europa League. Goalkeeper Alphonse Areola is unlikely to have the same kind of impact during his temporary stint from Paris Saint-Germain, leaving cravings for 'J-Lingz'.

Leeds United will hope to build on a positive first year back in the top flight, steered diligently by the boss on a bucket, Marcelo Bielsa, while Aston Villa have wisely elected not to replace the talismanic Grealish with just one player, instead bringing in several to try and fill the void.

There is still time for teams to strengthen, particularly as the leading clubs look to cut away some of the unnecessary fat in their bloated squad lists. Lingard demonstrated what a difference the right signing can make to a team.

However, another underdog story to match the wonderful tale of Claudio Ranieri's Leicester appears impossible. Instead, after two consecutive seasons with runaway champions, it would just be nice if the 2021-22 Premier League Stakes at least provided a little more drama by the time we enter into the closing stages.

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer trimmed his squad ahead of Raphael Varane's arrival by shipping out Axel Tuanzebe on loan to Aston Villa on Sunday.

The announcement of Tuanzebe's switch for a season-long stay at Villa comes as United prepare to finalise the signing of France centre-back Varane from Real Madrid.

The Varane deal looked set to push Tuanzebe further towards the fringes of the Red Devils squad, and the 23-year-old will have more obvious first-team prospects at Villa Park, where he has spent two previous loan stints.

Tuanzebe's spells at Villa came in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, before he looked to establish himself in the United first-team squad under Solskjaer.

Although Tuanzebe has left Old Trafford for now, he has signed a one-year extension to his United contract that had been due to expire at the end of the new season.

It means he has committed until the end of June 2023, with United having an option for a further 12 months, and Solskjaer will hope a full season of action with Villa sees the versatile defender fulfil the potential he has shown.

Villa said in a statement: "Aston Villa is delighted to announce the loan signing of Axel Tuanzebe from Manchester United. The defender returns to Villa Park on a season-long arrangement.

"Tuanzebe was a key member of the squad that helped Villa clinch promotion back to the Premier League in 2019."

The English defender started four Premier League games for United last season and played just 402 minutes in the top flight

United, in announcing the deal, said: "Having endured a difficult campaign last time out due to a couple of injuries, the highly rated centre-back will use this loan as a vital opportunity to assert himself and make an impression."

The signing of Varane is expected to go through in the coming days, with Solskjaer recently telling United's club website "paperwork" matters were holding up its completion.

Last season's Premier League runners-up begin the 2021-22 campaign with a home clash against Leeds United on Saturday, August 14.

Jack Grealish and Aston Villa provided a perfect model of how to sell a star player "in the best possible way", Stiliyan Petrov says.

And former Villa captain Petrov feels it is an example Harry Kane and Tottenham should heed as the England captain attempts to join Grealish at Manchester City.

Grealish left Villa Park for £100million this week, having wanted to join a Champions League club.

For Kane, who has already played in Europe's elite club competition, the intention appears to be to join a genuine title contender.

Spurs have fallen away, while City appear well set for their Premier League title defence.

It was reported Kane skipped pre-season training in a bid to force a transfer, although the striker said on Friday he "would never, and have never, refused to train" and was due to return "as planned".

City remain interested, as Pep Guardiola confirmed earlier the same day, but Tottenham are not willing sellers in the same way Villa were, having agreed Grealish's £100m release clause last year.

Luka Modric and Gareth Bale were each at odds with Spurs previously as they sought moves to Real Madrid, and Petrov suggests the "communication" between players and board at the London club is not as effective as at Villa.

"Everybody is blaming Harry Kane, [but] the way Aston Villa has handled Jack Grealish's situation was the prime example," Petrov, one of the founders of Player 4 Player, told Stats Perform.

"They sat down, they negotiated, they have talked about it. They managed to send Jack in the best possible way. Some fans will be unhappy, but many will be happy.

"Don't forget that they will get a really great price tag: £100million for Jack.

"He has given great years as a player for Aston Villa, they sat down, they have done it nicely, the player left in the best possible way, he was back for training, but that comes from the manager, from the coach of the club.

"And sometimes, you know, people blame the players, but don't blame just the players. You know what? It is always conversations, communication and the way of doing it.

"It seems like Tottenham haven't managed to do it for many years, because I can give you a lot of prime examples of a lot of players that ended in the same way. Probably that is the way they have decided to work."

Jack Grealish will be compared to global superstars like Neymar and Kylian Mbappe following his £100million move to Manchester City, Stiliyan Petrov expects.

England winger Grealish completed his transfer from boyhood club Aston Villa to City this week and could make his debut from the bench in Saturday's Community Shield.

Villa confirmed they had received £100m from City for their captain, triggering a release clause and making Grealish the Premier League's first nine-figure signing.

That is a select group across Europe, including the world's most expensive player Neymar and Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Mbappe.

"Jack Grealish has become part of the Neymar 100 million, Mbappe 100 million, [Philippe] Coutinho [group]," ex-Villa captain Petrov, one of the founders of Player 4 Player, told Stats Perform.

"So now he is not just a UK star and brand, now he's become global. Now he's become even bigger because now he is compared with one of the best.

"All the eyes will be on Jack now. Jack has to understand that the hard work starts now.

"In a team like Manchester City, every single player there is a top player. So, you have to go there, you have to adjust your game, you have to be at the top of your game every single time.

"If you don't play well every single week, the next [player] is waiting for your spot. When [they take] over, sometimes it takes months before he comes out again because the team is so well drilled and they just win games.

"So, Jack has a huge challenge. But when you are a top player, when you are a player with his abilities, you are always willing to challenge yourself.

"That is probably one of the reasons that he moved on, because with everything we will be reading in the press about Villa looking after him, Villa offering him a new contract, I think that Villa have done everything in their power to keep Jack Grealish.

"Unfortunately, that offer came at the time he has to make a decision to develop in a different way or stay at the club that he loves."

Petrov added: "He's got the platform now. He just needs to go and take it. Because the platform is there. He is at Manchester City. Manchester City will be fighting, will be challenging for every single trophy, at every single season.

"It is down to him how he is going to look after himself, how he is going to prepare for different dynamic of the season.

"Because at the moment, Jack will have another challenge as well; he only played in the Premier League and in some club games, but now he has to adjust to more travelling, with the European games, more games, more intensity, more demand.

"So, this is something that he has to adjust. But now he has the platform. If he can manage to use it, anything is reachable for this boy."

Forging a role in the team is another challenge, with Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden last season often taking up the left-sided positions Grealish likes to occupy.

But Petrov said: "He has got the ability to fit in any position.

"Pep Guardiola is a completely different manager from anybody else; he gets the quality of the player and he uses it in a completely different way.

"I could give you a premier example with Foden. Everybody says that the Foden position is in the middle and he plays on the left, the wide left, and the wide right.

"So, Jack Grealish will be the same. [Guardiola] will just develop and teach Jack Grealish to play in a number of positions.

"Can Jack Grealish adjust to that? He can. Certainly. Because he has got the ability, he has got the knowledge and the awareness to do those positions.

"I believe when Pep Guardiola spoke to Jack Grealish, he would have told him how to play number of positions, how to develop his skills, his ability, but also how to fight to be one of the best players in the world.

"And I believe that was what Jack was wanting: somebody to tell him that he is going to be in the spotlight, people will be talking about him.

"He needed more persuasion. That was what he needed. Just to show him that he can fight to be one of the best."

Aston Villa have confirmed they received a record £100million fee for Jack Grealish, who addressed the fans of his hometown club after leaving for Manchester City.

Premier League champions City announced the signing of Grealish on a six-year contract on Thursday.

A £100m fee – a record for a Premier League club – was widely reported, and Villa CEO Christian Purslow confirmed that amount in a message to fans.

City's bid – one of several approaches from numerous clubs – triggered a release clause agreed with Grealish at the start of last season, Purslow explained.

"Last summer, following interest from a number of clubs, we offered Jack a new contract to stay at the club, which he accepted with one proviso," Purslow said in a video message.

"Jack wanted to be certain that if at any point a Champions League club came in for him and Aston Villa was not in that competition, that we would not stand in his way.

"For that reason, we agreed to incorporate a so-called release clause into his contract.

"Our board set this clause at a value of £100m, knowing that would be by some way a record price for a British footballer and also a record fee for any player bought by a Premier League club.

"Put another way, we set the value at a level we hoped would not be met but which would reflect his truly unique value to Aston Villa.

"After a brilliant season for Jack, culminating in his performances at the Euros, a number of clubs expressed interest in signing him, initially at figures below the release clause. We simply refused to entertain those approaches.

"Finally, Manchester City notified us that they would be willing to pay the £100m it would take to trigger this clause.

"After many hours of discussions involving Jack, his family and his agent, during which we made clear our strong desire for him to stay at Aston Villa, Jack finally decided that he would like to go to City and instructed us to exercise his release clause as was his prerogative."

As Purslow spoke to the Villa fans on Thursday, so did boyhood fan Grealish, who had captained the side since 2019.

In a statement on his social media page, he said in part: "I'll always be a Villa fan – I love this club with all my heart and I hope you understand my reasons for seeking a new challenge."

Purslow explained how difficult the decision had been for Grealish, saying: "It was a highly emotional moment when he finally told me his decision, leaving me in no doubt how hard it had been for him to decide to leave our club, which he joined when he was six years old.

"Ultimately, he said it boiled down to wanting to play Champions League football now."

Indicating the mutual respect between player and board, Grealish's statement continued: "The club are in great hands, the manager, the lads, the new signings coming in – it's an exciting time to be a Villa fan."

Villa have already signed Emiliano Buendia, Leon Bailey and Danny Ings, three players for combined fees amounting to close to £100m.

Purslow confirmed the club had planned to replace Grealish – who scored six goals and added 10 assists last season – with a trio of stars rather than going for a single like-for-like buy.

"I want you all to be reassured that the board, Dean Smith, Johan Lange and I obviously knew this day might come and we have planned accordingly," he said.

"It was never our intention to replace Jack with one footballer, our strategy was to analyse and break down Jack's key attributes – his creativity, his assists, his goals – and to find these qualities and others in three forward players.

"In signing Emiliano Buendia, Leon Bailey and Danny Ings, we believe we have achieved this key objective and in doing so have also reduced an overdependency on one brilliant footballer."

Injuries limited Grealish to 26 league appearances last season, in which Villa had an outstanding 50 per cent winning record.

That dropped to 25 per cent in the 12 matches he missed, with their points-per-game return falling from 1.7 to 1.0.

Villa will hope their three lucrative signings will ensure those statistics are not repeated, with their creative talents set to boost a side that scored only 1.1 goals per game without Grealish.

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